160 Groups Ask Biden for EPA Clean Water Act Compliance

160 Organizations Pressure Biden on EPA Clean Water Act Compliance

Groups call on EPA to stop ship discharge of invasive species and human pathogens into U.S. waters

WASHINGTON — In a letter to President Joe Biden, 160 environmental, public health and tribal organizations today asked the President to direct the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to establish discharge standards for ships’ ballast water that comply with the Clean Water Act.

Congress passed the Clean Water Act (CWA) 50 years ago this month. Although the Act directed EPA to regulate all pollutant discharges into U.S. waters, for 36 years EPA declined to regulate ballast discharges, claiming they did little harm. Even after the courts ordered EPA to regulate these discharges, the agency ignored CWA requirements to limit discharges of invasive organisms and pathogens to standards based on the “Best Available Technology” (BAT). Instead, EPA adopted standards that simply duplicated existing U.S. rules; this did nothing to reduce pollutant discharges.

In 2015 the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ordered EPA to review and revise its ballast standards to meet the BAT requirement, and in 2018 Congress passed the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act, which gave EPA until December 2020 to set ballast standards.

EPA has still not done so. Instead, EPA is proposing to re-issue the same standards that the Court already rejected. The Court, scientists that EPA picked to study the issue, and published, peer-reviewed studies, have all found that there are commercially-available treatment systems that can consistently meet much higher standards.

The letter to President Biden comes after other actions this year protesting EPA’s failure to address pollution from ships’ ballast water. In June, 34 members of the House of Representatives sent a similar letter to EPA, asking it to establish lawful discharge standards for ballast water. Last month the Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Earth filed a Notice of Intent to sue EPA for failing to issue revised discharge standards, despite the 2020 deadline imposed by Congress and a standing court order.

“The way forward for EPA is a no-brainer,” said Marcie Keever, Oceans and Vessels Program Director at Friends of the Earth. “Instead of allowing ships to use the worst treatment systems available, our regulatory agencies should require ships to use the best treatment systems, according to science and the law.”

“Decades after the Clean Water Act was enacted, ballast water introduced invasive mussels, clams, crabs, fish and pathogens into U.S. waters that damaged ecosystems, reduced native fish populations, caused billions of dollars in economic damage, and made people sick,” said Andrew Cohen, Director of the Center for Research on Aquatic Bioinvasions. “These invasions would have been prevented if EPA had just implemented discharge standards based on the best available technology when Congress first ordered it to do so. It is long past time for EPA to do its job.”

Contact: Marcie Keever, Friends of the Earth, (510) 900-3144 [email protected]

Andrew Cohen, Center for Research on Aquatic Bioinvasions, (510) 367-9825 [email protected]

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